Archive for August, 2009

More adventures in Toronto

Friday, August 28th, 2009

One day, I went north of Toronto to visit the Aurora Bridge Club, where I met Izhar Hague and his lovely wife, Jane. President Olly Smolak introduced me all around and made a big speech about me. I also met Dorothy Street, who hails from Batchewana, near Sault-Sainte-Marie. She and I had both visited Shingwak, so we had an intimate moment about that. When I told Priscilla Hull that I travel by Fed Ex, she told me she likes a man who comes well wrapped up. My head was spinning trying to keep all those unusual names straight.

Izhar Hague, Aurora club manager, Virginia Smereka, Mary Oglanby and club President Olly Smolak

Izhar Hague, Aurora club manager, Virginia Smereka, Mary Oglanby and club President Olly Smolak

I found out that the Aurora Bridge Club is a non-profit community-owned club that will celebrate its 45th anniversary next year. They have over 200 active members and five games a week. When I found out that they offer lessons for beginners and intermediates at all levels, I signed on for their mentorship program and told them I would be back next spring.

The Saturday before I left Toronto, Alex and I went to Casino Rama, located in the Chippewa nation reserve near Rama in Ontario. Unfortunately, I did not have my birth certificate with me, so I got stopped at the door because they weren’t sure I was old enough to gamble. Someone told me later I probably saved a lot of money.

One of my biggest thrills on my tour of Toronto was getting to the top of the CN Tower, which until 2007 was the world’s tallest free-standing structure. I’m told some structure in Dubai is taller, but I doubt I’ll ever see that. Give me CN Tower any day.

That’s me at the magnificent CN Tower.

That’s me at the magnificent CN Tower.

After the CN Tower visit, I had dinner with Barbara and Roger Murray at Ferraro’s, a wonderful Italian restaurant. I ended up with more ribs, but I already knew not to ask for utensils. I just dove right in with my hands. Thank goodness someone brought me a finger bowl and a big bib.

Never mind the knife – I ate with my fingers.

Never mind the knife – I ate with my fingers.

Before I left, I spent Sunday lounging by the pool at Carriage Hills Resort in Oro-Medonte ON. Fed-Ex lost my bathing suit, so I couldn’t go into the pool. What if my suit shrank? As we used to say: Egad! It was very hot that day, but Barbara’s 6-year-old grandson, Justin, cooled me down with his water-pistol.

Among the many interesting people I met was Ray Lee, owner of Master Point Press and, as I discovered, a very shrewd businessman. I told him I like to write and have been considering putting my memoirs together for publication. He paused for a second and said, “Large weather we’re having, eh?” Well, I guess that’s a project that can wait.

Ray and his assistant, Sally Sparrow.

Ray and his assistant, Sally Sparrow.

I mentioned in the previous blog post that I stopped in Partners while in Toronto. Partners is Toronto’s newest bridge club. It is a lovely venue with skylights and a lovely view. They have games and classes and I had a great time visiting with Suzanne Kosky and Joel Shapiro, the owners. The club’s website is at www.partnersbridge.com.

On my way from Toronto to Atlanta, all I could think about was how friendly and pleasant our Canadian bridge players are. I’m sure I will find some Southern hospitality in Atlanta, too. Tara, here I come!

Adventures in Toronto

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Being in Toronto is a lot like being in Europe. It’s very cosmopolitan, just a delightful city. I can tell you now from first-hand experience that the city has some of the friendliest bridge players you could find anywhere.

The first time I went to Toronto, way back when, the airport was called Malton Airport – no mention of “international” at all. When I arrived in mid-August this year, I noticed it is called Toronto Pearson International Airport. Someone told me it was named for the former Prime Minister Lester Pearson, who actually won the Nobel Peace Prize back when I was playing bridge a lot more.

I was greeted by the exquisitely charming Barbara Seagram and her husband, Alex Kornel. Barbara caught up with me at the airport before I could check out the baggage carousels and get myself into trouble. The next few days rushed by so fast I can’t keep everything straight in my mind even now, so if I get something out of order, you’ll know why.

Barbara and Alex

Barbara and Alex

Getting to know Barbara on the way from the airport made me want to go to the bridge table and be nice to someone – heck, everyone. As many of you probably already know, Barbara pioneered the movement called Zero Tolerance, which means, to sum it up, “Be pleasant to your partner and opponents – or go home!” I can tell you, we could have used some ZT when I first started playing. You had to have a really thick skin to survive.

Barbara told me she picked up the idea for ZT while playing in Bermuda, which has an annual tournament that features everyone dressed properly – no bell bottoms, thank goodness – and being very civil. Barbara says that in Bermuda, they pride themselves on being proper in all ways: “Dress better, behave better.” She told me about an experience at her informal club after her visit to Bermuda. Barbara played with a friend who showed up in a suit and tie. “He proceeded to shake hands with each opponent as he sat down and they treated him so well that I couldn’t believe these were the same people.”

Barbara told me she and Alex used to own the largest bridge club in Canada, the Kate Buckman Bridge Studio. Now their club is smaller. Their games are not restricted by masterpoints but by attitude. Everyone has to be nice if they want to play there.

Some new-fangled practices in bridge are better, after all.

At Barbara and Alex’s club, there is a full-time cook. His name is Jimmy, and they tell me the ladies love him. He provides, great food at very inexpensive prices, and all the women want to know if he is married. As I found out, Jimmy makes the best Greek salad in Toronto. While I was there, he gave me a lesson in salad making. Wow!

Bob L and his new favorite cook, Jimmy

Bob L and his new favorite cook, Jimmy

Barbara was nice enough to take me to Hazel Wolpert’s club. It’s called, appropriately enough, Hazel’s Bridge Club.

Barbara and Hazel Wolpert

Barbara and Hazel Wolpert

Hazel was very charming, as well, and I’m told she is also a superb bridge teacher and a good player. Her son is Gavin Wolpert, recently married to Jenny Ryman (Blue Ribbon Pairs champions), both of whom just won big events in Washington. They are expecting their first baby in September. Hazel’s other son, Darren, is also a fine player. Hazel’s mother, Phyllis Bresge, was a highly competitive player in the world of duplicate as well. Hazel is loved and respected through the bridge world. Her large club averages about 30 tables on most afternoons.

We also went to Partners, Toronto’s newest bridge club. It was impressive.

The following was sent to Barbara by Sarah, a new fan of mine. I think it’s quite clever.

“What a doll! Tell BOB L that I don’t even need ONE SPADE to dig him. He has stolen my HEART, and if he promises me a DIAMOND, he can live at our CLUB. We’ll treat him like the KING he is, and play the fun and interesting game of bridge in our midtown REGAL location. A rousing cheer (but NO TRUMPets) for BOB L and his visit to our wonderful city!”

Well, gotta run back to the bridge table….There’s so much more to tell about my adventures in Toronto and the fabulous clubs and people there. Check back soon for more news!  Take a look at the gallery below for lots of photos of me having fun in Toronto.


Bob in DC!

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Did you know there are two Starbucks within a few feet of each other at the Memphis International Airport? Well, now you do. I was tempted to get one of those fancy drinks — mokey macky something — but it looked too big to carry on my way to the gate. Do you suppose they sell coffee-flavored coffee?

I was worried about my luggage — these airplanes are so much bigger than I’m used to — but I had fun at the Washington airport named after Ronald Reagan. I must admit, though, that I got a little dizzy riding around on that carousel waiting for my bag. I nearly got crushed by a set of golf clubs that zoomed out just as I was making a turn. I wonder if all the people at the airport are as grumpy as the man who made me get off the ride.

I loved the Marriott, where they played the big tournament. What a hotel!  It was tough finding my way around on the three levels, but I eventually settled down in my little spot in the Daily Bulletin office, watching all the people come in to talk to the staff. There was an endless variety of topics: new Life Masters, lost sweaters, people wanting directions, former board members showing off their photos. You name it.

My first official function was being introduced at the meeting of the ACBL board. Vicki Campbell, the company’s marketing person, said so many nice things about me that I was blushing. Some of the board members were very friendly, one in particular. I’ll tell you about him later.

 IMG_7006 

I was invited to the Goodwill Committee reception, and someone put me on the podium where Aileen Osofsky talks to everyone. The stand was slanted, though, so they had to tape me down so I wouldn’t fall off. Talk about a captive audience! Not that I wanted to leave, mind you — Aileen was very charming — but I was looking longingly at the buffet line and the free bar.

 Bob L

As you have been told, my final destination this year is the Fall NABC in San Diego, so I stopped by the Mega Housing booth to make my reservation. I wish everything had been so easy.

After the Goodwill meeting, the very nice board member I was telling you about — Rand Pinsky, from Los Angeles — dropped by to invite me to the evening side game. He was playing with his wife, Kathy Swaine. People were very friendly when they came to the table, and Rand had fun asking new arrivals to the table if they minded kibitzers. People were swinging their heads around looking for a regular-size person, then Rand laughed and told them the spectator was me. It was great fun.

 bobl table

At one point, Kathy had a rather difficult bidding decision, so I got up on her shoulder to check out her hand to see if I could help. She was very nice to me, but she didn’t really need any advice.

bridgetts2

One day, I went for a visit to the Intermediate/Newcomer game, and I met the Bridgettes. They are six women from Long Island who travel together to the NABCs. They were very friendly, but when I inquired about membership, they were a bit hesitant. Apparently, it’s a pretty exclusive club.

Most of the time I was in DC, I stuck to my perch in the Daily Bulletin office — having fun people watching — but midway through the tournament, I was kidnapped!

That’s right, and they even left a ransom note.

I was shocked when I found out later that all they wanted was $10,000! As Jack Benny used to say, “Well. . .!”

My captor was none other than Julie Janiciki, wife of one of the newest board members. She is a really nice lady.

I don’t think she meant me any harm, and she later amended the ransom demand to include some gold points. She told me she had planned to take me out for some sightseeing in the nation’s capital, but she got to feeling poorly,  and she spent the day in her hotel room (I was feeling neglected and pretty bored in her purse).

I was happy to return to the DB office. Ask Barry Rigal some time to tell you the story about the Swedish man and the drug store. It sure made the people in the office laugh in the many times it was told. I saw a lot of Patty Tucker, too. She works with the tournament for young people that I heard so much about. I could have visited there and no one would have known me. It’s nice to lie low sometimes.

Okay, folks. That’s it for now. My next message will come to you from Toronto, assuming I get there in one piece and the baggage carousel at the airport doesn’t go too fast.